Richard Valdes Steps Out of a Dream

Forever Yours by Richard Valdes.

Stepping Out of a Dream: A Retrospective 1965 to 2024, is Richard B. Valdes’s first solo retrospective exhibit. It is a retrospective worldview through the lens of a Chicano artist. His artistic voyage in display spans six decades. With more than 45 pieces of artworks in exhibition at the Jean Deleage Art Gallery located in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles (June 15th to September 2024), Valdes will delight the viewers and visitors with a full scale of intriguing landscapes and portraits of weddings between love and nature. His use of organic motifs and fauna intertwine his romantic dreamscapes with gentleness. It is Valdes’s musical performance with overlapping forms and vibrant colors on canvas. His paintings have the scent of flowers and the tonality of a weathered guitar. Valdes’s heart is his garden.

Every fiber of the canvas used by Valdes holds his accumulated amorous youth expressed in sensual vine-shaped curves that extend throughout many of his portraits (color gardens). They are sensual, and carry subtle hints of erotism. In a conversation between artist Fernando Barragan and Valdes,  Barragan learned that, “Valdes’s most important and inspiring model is his wife.” Most of Valdes’s paintings are dressed with poetic sensitivity. His images of friends and mujeres can be said to also be portraits of flora y fauna

For Chicana poet and author of Chicana on Fire, Vibiana A. Chamberlin, her eyes, her heart say;  “Richard is all about “cariño, naturaleza y la mujer. Everything he touches, every brush stroke, every color, every shape effuses the love of women in all her facets and ages. He tosses flower-like colors, petals, and all-seeing eyes on his joyful canvases. The artist is a child of the 60s and 70s. He is a youth from the Eastside who rebelled against the war in Vietnam. Richard B. Valdes’s art is masterful in style and alluring in content. 

Valdes’s cityscapes bear the relationship between space and place with the Chicano/Latino community. In his painting titled Skyscape Valdes draws us to a floating city migrating through space. Like a monarch butterfly, the city floats effortlessly across a gray hazy sea. The unorthodox combination of pinks, beiges and grays in a city of bridges and stairs is due to raise questions. It resonates with the thought of migration and place. It feels lonely, nostalgic and quiet. 

Valdes witnessed the birth of the Chicano and the Anti-Vietnam War movement of the 1960s in East Los Angeles. He was born and raised in Boyle Heights in the vicinity of Aliso Village and attended Roosevelt High School. In high school, his teacher realized the talent and skill Valdes had for drawing. He was encouraged by his teacher to apply for a scholarship at the renowned Chouinard Art Institute then located in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles.  Valdes did apply. To his surprise, he was accepted and graduated with a B.F.A in 1971. He recounts, “Had I not been awarded the scholarship to Chouinard I would have been drafted to Vietnam. Many of my 1967 classmates from high school drafted to the war never come back.” The 1968 Tet Offensive launched by the North Vietnamese was around the corner and many of the casualties of the war were disproportionately Mexican Americans. 

Valdes worked at Bullock’s Department Store in downtown Los Angeles as a commercial artist and a freelance layout designer for Harris and Frank Men’s Clothing Company. In the early 1970s Valdes would be invited to create a series of cartoons for the historical publication, La Raza Magazine. La Raza was a political magazine that documented the Chicano experience in Los Angeles. This same period would give rise to the Chicano Renaissance in the arts and literature that Valdes became part of. He acquired the skill of silk screen printing at Self Help Graphics by working with master printer Joe Alpuche. His friendship with artist Carlos Almaraz influenced his use of pastels and multi-color palettes to share his appreciation for being in the world with his lyrical imagination. 

Although Valdes is a trained illustrator, his painter’s hand never starts without consulting his feelings. His work is road-mapped with warmth and love. Straight lines are a rarity in Stepping Out of a Dream. If they are to be found they bend to the will of Eros. An invisible aspect in Valdes’s body of work expresses selfless themes. There is no maxed-out “I” nor any detrimental ill will towards the body, soul and spirit. 

By inviting flora and fauna to share the canvas, Valdes validates nature to be in equal standing amongst humans. It is a subject-to-subject relation. Nature is not utilized as an ornament. It is an expression of a fond mutual relationship between them both. The floral patterns in Valdes’s paintings reminds us of those of traditional textile designs found in Mesoamerican indigenous cultures. Valdes’s work does not compete with any other artists yet his work rivals past and contemporary art scenes as an American/Chicano master artist. It stands on its own. Much can be said about his technique such as his use of words in many of his paintings or his exquisite use of pastels. What is most prominent in his work is his gestures of paint circle back to rescue a love that refuses to fall victim to apathy and despair. While artist and color theorist Wassily Kandinsky saw color as music notes that contained sound, for Valdes, our Chicano and Mexican American artist, color also carries the scent of flowers. There is a synesthesia experience that captures the magical conversations amongst colors and flora in Valde’s art. Valdes undoubtedly leads with heart! His work carries the fragrance of an eternal spring.

Stepping Out of a Dream: A Retrospective 1965 to 2024 by Richard B. Valdes.
Opening reception: Saturday June 15th, 2024
Time: 2 pm to 6 pm
Casa 0101
2102 E. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90033